Have you ever heard of a “memory leak?” It’s a classic problem in programming computer software.
A memory leak occurs when an application doesn’t let go of memory when it is done using it. For example, an ATM shouldn’t try to keep information about all customers that have used it in the past week. It only needs to hold the current customer’s information. Once a person logs in, makes a transaction, then logs out, the transaction is stored permanently in the bank’s systems. The ATM is done with that customer, so it should free its memory and wait for the next customer.
If the ATM isn’t programmed properly, it might not free up all its memory after each customer transaction is finished. Over time the machine has less and less memory until it starts to run slowly or crashes. The memory seems to leak away. It’s there, but the flawed programming doesn’t use it efficiently.
A person doing artistic work can have memory leaks too. A human “memory leak” is a common cause of the sluggish, stuck experience known as a “creative block.”
Often A blocked writer starts getting ideas when he frees up his brain’s memory capacity. The grocery list, the dog’s facial appointment, and the sequence of episodes in the first four seasons of his favorite TV show take up valuable brain power that could otherwise be used for creating and editing. The grocery list can be written down, so it doesn’t need to be held continually in his mind. The dog’s appointment can go on the calendar. And, well sometimes trivia about TV shows really isn’t very important, is it?
A musician waiting to go onstage holds a tremendous amount of cognitive and emotional information in her mind. “I’m nervous. I want to make a good impression. Did I forget anything? Why is the light so odd in this place?” That information is powerful. It sends messages to the body such as, “Be alert! This is a vulnerable situation.” If the fear response escalates, she may experience Shaky hands, sweaty armpits, and a dry mouth. She may feel stiff, stunned, and blocked, wondering why things are always so scary onstage.
If she can free up some brain power by letting go of the “worry” information, then her mind and body will have resources available for making music and connecting with her audience. However, if her mind holds onto those “I’m scared” feelings and thoughts long after they have served their purpose, she will not move efficiently from a defensive state to a confident one.
Here are some simple things you can try to reclaim some brain power when you feel blocked:
- Take long, deep breaths
- Write down to-do lists
- Watch less TV
- Take a few minutes to do nothing
- Replace a worried thought with a hopeful one
- Start your creative work earlier in the day
- Write your appointments and reminders in a calendar
- Take a nap
- Avoid trivia
- go for a walk or a run
- Make time to daydream
- Change your routines regularly
- Spend time with an animal
- Go to bed a little earlier
- Fall in love with your creative endeavors
- Say encouraging things to yourself every day
- Keep working even when you don’t feel like it